Get User Feedback FAST with an MVP

Cris and Andrew get passionate about the value that MVPs bring your product. In this episode of Tech Tuesday, they describe different kinds of MVPs and how they allow you to iterate on your project quickly to maximize your success. Save time. Save money. Discover what your user base wants and needs as early as possible.

First we want to define the difference between UI and UX. As Andrew explains, UX stands for user experience and it has to do with how the interacts and feels about your app, where as UI, user interface, describes the design choices like colors, fonts, and layout that you’ve chosen for your app. Both are very important, but today we are focusing on user experience.

User experience is relevant to your MVP in two ways. First is that UX may be among the items that you consider minimizing when building your minimum viable product. This is a conversation we have with clients a lot. There’s no right answer here and it really depends on the needs of your project, but we will discuss the options for how minimal or robust your UX needs to be on your very first release. Making sure that everyone is on the same page about what level is right for your project is important as clients then take their app to potential users and start getting feedback. Which brings us to the second way UX relates to your MVP. Ultimately, an essential goal for your MVP is to get even more information from your users about UX and then iterate upon that. This enables you to have the best app possible in the least amount of time on the slimmest budget. As Andrew summarizes it, “The MVP is going to drive what the user experience is going to look like and what users are going to see.”

At Bixly, this whole process of planning and executing an MVP, presenting it for user feedback, and continuing to iterate is highly collaborative. “We don’t expect clients to do that on their own. We ask them questions in their very early engagement to help focus them on where they need to go.” Andrew continues, We can help pull your success criteria out of you because ultimately you know your business, you know your clients, you know your industry.” By complementing your expertise in your vertical with our expertise in software, together we can truly arrive at the most successful version of your idea.

Finally, Cris and Andrew talk about different types of MVPs. There are options out there. The least amount of time and cost usually looks like what we call a “design MVP”. This is where we create wireframes and designs of the various screens for you app without actually coding or building any functionality. As Cris points out, these are often the best MVP for presenting to potential investors, who may not need to directly interact with version 1.0 to be able to determine whether or not they want to invest. The most common version of an MVP is a complete but minimal app. It is the most refined version of your app idea that is still cohesive and complete. This type of MVP is the one you want to build if you need to put it in front of users for feedback and testing, to being that iterative process of development. A more unusual MVP is one that we have come to call the “human MVP” and it is the process we went through for our app, Overflow. Not all apps are able to be tested this way, but it is a creative and low cost way to get valuable insight early on. The human MVP is when you use people to replicate the process that would be facilitated by an app. In the case of Overflow, this looked like our team taking orders from patrons at bars, using a third-party payment processor to accept payment from patrons, delivering the order information to bar tenders, and alerting patrons when their order was ready for pick up at a designated spot at the bar. All of these functions would ultimately be done from within the app, but by giving the process a trial run with people, we were able to discover a few frustrations or services we had overlooked.

If you feel you are ready to begin planning your MVP, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Set a free meeting with Cris today to begin the process of verifying your app idea and planning. In three months, you could have version one of your app ready to show to potential clients and investors!

 

Transcript:

Alexandra:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. Today, Chris and Andrew are taking on the topic of your end users are your UX experts. They talk about the difference between UI and UX, and we also talk about the huge importance of getting your MVP in front of your end users, so you can start iterating and get that UX feedback from the actual people who will be using your app. It’s a great conversation, so I hope you enjoy.

Andrew:

UX stands for user experience, and it’s really all about how the user interacts or how they feel when they’re interacting with your product or your software. UI is user interface and so, that’s really more about the specific elements, typographies, colors, fonts, things like that. So that’s more about the visual appearance and less about the experience.

Cris:

It’s important to have those conversations, especially when you’re dealing with an MVP, because a lot of times an MVP is connected to a budget and usually a much smaller budget than the larger project. So if you’re creating an application that has a very rough user experience to it, that may work for an MVP because you’re trying to keep your budget down, but you need to have those conversations with the client. Otherwise, they’re going to get something on the other side that feels very juxtaposed into how they may do their day-to-day work routine, which is not going to feel like a very useful MVP to them.

Cris:

Because it’s causing a barrier to them to continue to do their daily work. However, if you let them know, “Listen, these key elements from a interface standpoint are going to let you specifically click here, and it’s specifically going to look like this,” and at least have the conversation of the UX is going to be terrible, and they understand that then it’s a very valid MVP and completely works. And that’s not to say you can’t have good UX on an MVP. You can, but I think it’s why it’s important that you talk about it.

Andrew:

Yeah. The MVP too is really all about gathering user feedback so that we can iterate and then make decisions about the project going forward. The idea being, we don’t ultimately know what the users are going to want, but based on what we think is a good 1.0, that’s going to tell us what we should include in a user experience and in the user interface and what we shouldn’t. So the MVP is going to drive what the user’s going to experience and what they’re going to see. And we’ve seen clients come to us too, which they’ll have maybe some drawings they’ve done on napkins or all the way to high fidelity designs. So they had a designer put it together and it’s got all of these cool elements on it and we’ll bring it back to, okay, what is the MVP going to be? What are we trying to accomplish with this as far as getting feedback from users? And okay, do we need this?

Cris:

Yeah. Is this the story you’re trying to tell?

Andrew:

Exactly, yeah.

Cris:

And if it’s not, then we don’t need it.

Andrew:

Cut out the noise.

Cris:

Cut out the noise.

Andrew:

Yeah. And we don’t expect clients to do that on their own. We ask them questions in our very early engagement to help focus them on where they need to go. So we help hold your hand during that. It’s not like we expect you as the client to come in and understand user experience and understand how to plan an MVP. We can hold your hand through all of that process and make sure that you’re starting down the right path. And I think that’s an area where we really excel at Bixly is helping guide you as to how your project’s going to be successful and help pulling your success criteria out of you. Because ultimately, you know your business, you know your clients, you know your industry, and we’re going to help you bring that into the light and just help make your project a glowing success.

Andrew:

There’s lots of different flavors of MVP. So the MVP, again, just to circle back is to gather user feedback, so we know which direction ultimately to take the project. Under the idea that it’s impossible if you’re building something new in particular, to know ultimately where you’re going or what your customers need. And we’re building innovative things, our clients are building innovative things, they’re not just cloning something out there and saying, “I exactly 100% want this exact same thing.” So two really common ones I see are we can build a minimum version of your app, whether it’s a mobile app or web app, it doesn’t matter. It usually takes about three months to do that. And that’s working with you to really refine down the features that need to be in there. So we can help people do that for a startup size budget that doesn’t necessarily require investor capital.

Andrew:

So that’s the MVP where we actually build the app. The other MVP that we see a lot is where we don’t even build anything. We still work with the client to understand what functionality or what feedback we want to gather in the MVP, but instead we’ll do essentially drawings. So wire frames that are like pencil sketch through a software program like Figma or Sketch or something like that, or even high fidelity designs where it actually looks exactly like what the app would look like. But that way it requires less imagination for people.

Andrew:

And whether you’re going to investors or you’re going to end users, but you’re not even spending that three months, you’re spending more like a month, just to get things down on paper. And again, somewhat relying on their imagination, but also giving them something tangible. And then it also provokes them to think in terms of, “Oh yeah, but how am I going to gather this? Or this doesn’t tie back to that.” So those were two really good ways, either the one month flavor or the three month flavor, depending on how interactive you need your MVP to be.

Cris:

And I think you’re dealing a lot with the maybe the two month or the three month MVP. If you’re trying to physically put this in front of your end users and have them play around with it in the real world. You still can do that with users but maybe the one month MVP that clicked through the Figma designs or something in Sketch, we get clients all the time that say, “Oh, I need to build this MVP because I’m going to go get some investment money.”

Cris:

Investors don’t care if the actual application works, they want to see, what does it look like? What does it feel like? What am I writing a check for? And if you have a really nice high fidelity design that you can click through, well, the clients are like, “This looks amazing. I want this, let’s build it right now. I’ll give you all the money.” And so, an MVP, “an MVP” might actually mean gathering from your end users, it might also mean I just need to go get a check from somebody.

Andrew:

Right.

Cris:

So, there’s options.

Andrew:

Yeah.

Cris:

And the good thing is you don’t have to do one or the other.

Andrew:

And an MVP is really a good fit for pretty much everyone.

Cris:

Yes.

Andrew:

We strongly encourage clients to do that. The reason for this is because we want them to not overbuild initially. We want our clients to be successful. So the overarching theme here that you’re hearing when it comes to MVPs is you should be able to get an MVP in around three months. There’s no reason to spend six months or a year building out everything you think needs to be in there because chances are when you do that and you get it in front of your users, they’re not going to value things that you maybe spent two months on this feature. They’re not going to use this other thing, and then the thing that you didn’t spend much time on is the thing they really care about, or maybe there’s a subsection of your app that delivers huge value to them.

Andrew:

And that’s really what they care about. But you spent 20% of your budget on that. So we want clients to, A, we want them to be successful and B, we don’t want to use all their budget in the first round because it’s pretty much a certainty that your first pass of this is going to be your worst pass, because you have the least amount of information. So it makes sense to do a minimal investment, again, that minimum viable product. And then save some of your budget, save some of your timeframe, gather that user feedback and iterate based off that. And we’re, basically as a team, we’re here longterm to help you do that. So we can help you build that MVP, and then if you need a team for another six months or six years to keep that project going afterwards and really build it out the next 95%, we’re totally there to help you with that too.

Cris:

And stepping it back even a little bit from the MVP, the goal should always be that you’ve validated the market.

Andrew:

Yes.

Cris:

And you know that you actually want to have this built and then that people actually want to have this built and are going to use it and you can monetize it and all the things that go along with validating the market. But we know also that that is not the case. And so, it’s important to push towards MVP and know that you might have felt the market out a little bit …

Andrew:

Right.

Cris:

… but don’t go develop for two years and then throw something out to the market. Just build for a month or two, also continue to validate the market, get the MVP out there and then get the feedback.

Andrew:

And that’s the point, that you don’t know what your users are going to value.

Cris:

Exactly.

Andrew:

And we never want to have a case with a client where they came to us, they told us, “Build X, Y, Z,” we built X, Y, Z, and then they’re just not successful because they didn’t validate the idea. And we can just be like, “Well, we built what you said.” So it’s important to us that basically clients are successful. And so, we want to help you validate those ideas and that’s what the MVP does.

Cris:

Well, we had a project, I mean, we still have a product that’s called Overflow. Overflow was very interesting. What it was allowing us to do was take ordering at bars and venues where you normally would be dealing with large traffic and having to fight through and take physical orders and all that stuff, and pay with credit cards and tabs and just all this terrible stuff that bartenders have to do that is not bartending, which is what they’re actually really, really good at. So we came up with the idea of what if as a user, I can just order a drink from my phone, I can pay for it from my phone and much like Uber or Lyft, or really any application nowadays, you can just get an alert that says, “Your drinks ready, go pick it up at a bar.” So we had all these ideas.

Cris:

We’re like, “That sounds really, really cool. We should do this.” So what a lot of people would have done and what we even unfortunately started to do at the beginning of it was just go build the application. Then we said, “Wait a minute, hang on now. We think we want this, so let’s actually go make sure that other people want it.” So we did what we refer to as the human MVP. And the human MVP was us going to bars, setting a whiteboard up on the bar top table, the bartender was there and we said, “Okay, here’s the deal. We’re going to actually simulate like you got an order digitally and it showed up here on the screen. I’m going to rove around with a couple of sales reps, we’re going to basically be the iPhones in this scenario and we’re going to go, just take orders from people manually.

Cris:

And we’re going to see if they A, will just order from somebody,” we know they’ll obviously order from a waiter or waitress, but are they going to order from this other person that says, “Also, by the way, you can pay with your phone.” Well, how do I do that? Well, we just leverage the third party application that accepted payments and shot it over to the bar. But we basically put orders up, had the customer that has actually ordered from their phone using a third party payment service. We then manually walked over, wrote it up on a whiteboard, it simulated them receiving a digital order, they built it, they said, “Hey, it’s ready.” And we said, “Oh, the bartender says your drinks are ready, why don’t you go pick your drink up, customer?” They walked up, they picked up the drink, they walked away.

Cris:

And suddenly they realized which we had hoped to validate through the whole process that they didn’t really have to stop their conversations with their friends. They paid for their whole drink with their phone and had very little interruption. The bartender didn’t have to worry about even taking their order, so they just continued to bartend and then the drink got made, it got delivered successfully and everyone was happy. And we basically simulated building an MVP type app that would have been a phone app that actually took orders, payments, all that stuff but we just did it physically with people. It was a really neat process, it was super fun and we were able to see a lot of rubs in the process of people being like, “I like that, I don’t like that,” both on the bartenders and the customer side. So it was fun, and it doesn’t work for every application obviously. But if there’s real world scenarios that you can run to validate the process and the flow of your application and that MVP that you’re going to build, I highly recommend that you do that.

Alexandra:

Thank you everyone for joining us for this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. I hope you enjoyed this conversation about MVP’s and getting UX feedback from your actual end users. If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave them in the comments down below. And if you have an idea about an app that you’d like to start verifying and exploring, check out our website, bixly.com. You can contact us directly there and even set up a free consultation on your app idea.